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Challenge Questions

About Challenge Questions...

Challenge questions are one way to provide an opportunity for assessments that involve open-ended written explanations. Students are periodically asked challenge questions as a means to explore their prior understanding of key ideas, investigate phenomena, build models, and to revise their initial model ideas. After enough model ideas have been finalized, students then revisit their original ideas and write their own, more refined, answers. Initially this is done individually and then in groups. During the initial explorations of a Challenge question, formative assessments are typically used (See Formative assessments guide). Finally, an open-ended summative assessment can be given.

Some challenge questions that have already been created are listed below.  Each challenge question has a more detailed explanation provided in the documents that go with their lesson segment. Feel free to add your own, use these “as is”, or any combination in between.  Some of the challenge questions cover the same model ideas so it is not necessary to informally and formally assess all of them.  The best approach is to use as many as you can as formative assessments and then finalize student comprehension using the same question or advancing to another similar questions as a summative assessment.  Many teachers have found that using one challenge question as practice and another for a summative assessment is very useful.  Students seem to benefit from this type of repetition yet they still have to apply the model ideas to a new scenario.   Find the best combination that works for you and your students.

Challenge Questions:

  • Biggest Loser (Cellular Respiration & Biosynthesis)

  • Sprout to Tree (Cellular Respiration, Biosynthesis, & Photosynthesis)

  • The Twins (Meiosis)

  • Sickle Cell Anemia around the world (Population Variation)